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Careers in History: University Education

Anthony Minnema ('05)

Lecturer, University of Tennessee

Anthony Minnema graduated from Calvin in May 2005 with a major in European History and minors in Latin and Medieval Studies. He completed a master's degree in Medieval Studies in 2008 at the Western Michigan University. In August 2013, Anthony completed his doctoral degree in European History at the University of Tennessee, where he is now a lecturer.

Why did you choose to major in history at Calvin?

I came to Calvin because I wanted to study history in smaller classes with greater access to professors. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I took the first half of Frans van Liere’s survey of medieval Europe. I was fascinated by the material and Prof. van Liere’s engaging teaching style. During my junior year, I enrolled in all of the available medieval history courses and began learning Latin. I had initially planned to complete a degree in European History with a minor in Latin, but Prof. van Liere’s interdisciplinary courses allowed me to add a minor in Medieval Studies.

How did your time at Calvin prepare you for what you are doing now?

Calvin gave me an excellent foundation in historical research. Calvin professors taught me how to write not only through the exercise of research papers, but also in their willingness to read drafts and talk me through some of the problems that arose during my research. Many of my current projects deal with medieval manuscripts and their readers. The first time that I saw a manuscript was in Prof. van Liere’s interim course, "The Bible in the Middle Ages," during a field trip to the Newberry Library. The handmade and unique nature of manuscripts grabbed my attention. At my request, Professor van Liere offered a class on paleography and codicology, in which we examined Latin manuscripts for a semester. These experiences influenced my graduate career. Latin manuscripts formed the source material for my master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation and continue to shape my research.

Do you have any advice for current students or those thinking in majoring in history at Calvin?

Current history majors need to take advantage of the smaller classes and the professors' accessibility at Calvin. These classes are excellent practice for graduate study since they give you ample opportunity to speak up and discuss books with professors. Their interest in the subject matter is infectious. I found that the professors at Calvin were very willing to talk about projects, read drafts, and give advice about graduate school. Many of them have continued to provide encouragement and support even after I graduated.

What are your future career plans?

I am currently applying for positions as a professor of history and turning my dissertation into a book. I will also be conducting research in European libraries for another project on Latin readers in Arabic scholarship.

Find out more:

I would be glad to speak with current Calvin history majors about my work and graduate school. They can contact me at aminnema@utk.edu.


Bobbi Sutherland

Lecturer, University of Dayton

After Calvin, Bobb went straight into the Ph.D. program in Medieval Studies at Yale University. After earning her doctorate, she accepted a position at Dordt College. She is now a full-time faculty member at the University of Drayton.

Why did you decide to major in history at Calvin?

My choice to major in history was not immediate.
I came into college thinking I wanted to be a medical doctor, but by October of my freshman year, I realized that just wasn’t going to happen. I spent my interim trying to figure out what I wanted to study. A part of me had always known that I wanted to major in English (which I did), but something didn’t sit right. I didn’t want to be a high school English teacher, and I didn’t think reading great literature alone was what I really craved. I’m not sure why, but that month I decided to read the Canterbury Tales in Middle English (perhaps I wanted to read the great works chronologically?). As I was reading them, I quickly discovered that reading and thinking about this sort of thing was what I wanted to do. And then it hit me smack in the face: I loved books written long ago or that took place long ago; in short, I loved history! Of course, I should major in European history!

History was consistently my best subject in school and I had always loved it. I knew, however, that I also loved literature and that I wanted to study the two together. I decided to test my hypothesis by taking History 151 at the same time that I took English 210. I really enjoyed both classes. Prof. Frans van Liere, who taught History 151, showed so much enthusiasm for the subject that he not only clinched my decision to major in history, but he also drew me toward studying the Middle Ages in particular.

How did your time in at Calvin prepare you for what you are doing now?

My time at Calvin, both in general and within the history department, prepared me well for graduate school. I was instilled with a love of learning and desire to live the life of the mind. I learned to write and speak well; I learned to find connections between multiple disciplines; I learned perseverance, integrity, and honesty. Most importantly, I learned the value of being a well-rounded person. Rather than simply judging myself and others on the basis of publications and academic honors, I’ve learned that things like devoting oneself to teaching or university service; being a good parent, spouse, or friend; doing community service; and cultivating one’s other talents are all of great value. It’s been very hard to keep this in mind in an environment like Yale Graduate School; I can’t imagine where I’d be without the foundation that Calvin provided.

What are some of your memories of the Calvin History Department?

My memories of the Calvin History Department are many and varied. My professors were enthusiastic about their subjects: I remember Jim Bratt impersonating George Whitefield during his class on the Great Awakening, with the result that I’ve never forgotten who Whitefield was (something that impresses my Americanist friends). Again, I remember Prof. van Liere performing a few “creative archaeology” experiments, including making bone ice skates (a great success) and making mead (a horrible, sticky disaster all over the kitchen floor). Most of all, I remember how helpful every one of my professors were in offering to read drafts, being regularly available for office hours, allowing me to do tutorials, lending me books, and helping me with the graduate school application process. In fact, many of them have continued to be helpful as I begin my career, giving advice and encouragement.

Stephen Staggs

Doctoral Candidate, WMU

Stephen Staggs won two prestigious research fellowships that allowed him to spend the entire 2010-2011 academic year completing the research for his dissertation, "Indian-Dutch Relations in New Netherlands and New York during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries."

The first was the NY400 Fulbright Grant, a commemorative grant that celebrates 400 years of Dutch-American friendship and the 60th anniversary of the Fulbright Program in the Netherlands. The Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the U.S. State Department, together with the Netherland-America Foundation and the Holland America Friendship Foundation, created this special scholarship to enable one student at the graduate level to conduct research in the Netherlands for one academic year.

Shortly after accepting the Fulbright award, Stephen learned he had also been awarded the Larry J. Hackman Research Award from the New York State Archives Trust. Stephen will use this award to return to his archival work in Albany, the other key collection he is using for his project.

 

Kim (De Wall) Rubin

Lecturer in History and Religious Studies, Penn State

In June 2005, Kim completed a Master of Theological Studies at the Harvard Divinity School. Her studies focused broadly on early Christian history in its broader cultural, religious, and social setting in the Greco-Roman world with a particular interest on the late antique history and archaeology of the eastern Roman Empire. A highlight of her program was on-site archaeology seminars in Greece and Turkey where she was particularly interested in exploring the reuse of (sacred) space, the Roman imperial cult (including the way in which cities in the Roman periphery represented themselves), and architectural rhetoric. Her program also included extensive language study in Post classical Greek, and both Classical and Modern Arabic.

After two years working in the editorial department of Baker Publishing Group, Kim recently married and moved to State College, PA, home of the Pennsylvania State University. Currently, Kim is a Lecturer in Jewish Studies, Religious Studies, and Classics & Ancient Mediterranean Studies in the History Department and Program in Religious Studies at Penn State. Courses she has taught there include New Testament, Early Judaism, and Early & Medieval Christianity.